By Lori Nickel
Tribune News Service
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- This is what happens when Aaron Rodgers finds receiver Jordy Nelson early:
Vikings game. Nelson catches one pass, makes two moves and races 66 yards into the end zone in the first quarter. Packers win, 42-10.
Dolphins game. Nelson catches a 9-yard touchdown on the opening drive. Packers win, 27-24.
Panthers game. Nelson turns a catch-and-run in to a 59-yard touchdown on the opening drive. Packers win, 38-17
Bears game. Rodgers and Nelson hook up for a 73-yard touchdown to start the second quarter. Nelson already has three catches for 92 yards in what will end up being a rout.
Eagles game Sunday. Third play of the day, Rodgers launches a 64-yarder to Nelson. Four plays later, Green Bay gets a field goal. Three hours later, Packers win, 53-20.
It is no coincidence that in five of the Packers seven victories this season, Nelson has made big catches early.
"Jordy is one of the best receivers in the league and we've got one of the best guys throwing him the ball," said fullback John Kuhn. "You want to get as many possible shots with that combination as you can.
"And if they're going to take that away from us, it just opens up other areas. Our dangerous offense -- having other weapons other than just Jordy -- makes it easy for him and Aaron to play pitch and catch."
Nelson said the latest big 64-yard grab at Lambeau Field was a simple go-ball.
"We're just out there executing right now," said Nelson. "I think we're being extremely aggressive, coming out, throwing the ball the last couple of games."
But with 109 yards overall on four receptions, including a 27-yard catch for a touchdown, Nelson made the Eagles -- and corner Bradley Fletcher -- look slow and flat-footed.
"I think Jordy is deceivingly fast. I've seen him out-run guys that ran 4.2s at the combine -- but he doesn't necessarily look like he's moving," said Packers center Corey Linsley. "He's just striding it out, but I'm like, man that guy is fast.
"To get him the ball early and have him out-run a couple of 4.2 DBs really puts the defense in a whirlwind."
Green Bay has made no secret that it likes to play with a lead. Nelson isn't the kind of player who needs to be involved early in order to be effective; he's been one of the most consistent receivers in recent memory.
But he helps put Green Bay on the scoreboard in a hurry. It doesn't hurt when the opposing defense plays with a single high safety, like the Eagles did Sunday. Nelson acknowledged he gets excited when he sees that.
"Teams are for the most part going to play their defense," said Nelson. "They're not going to come in here and completely change what they do.
"Whenever we get that one high, you get the one-on-one opportunities -- and we've got to win them. ...That's when we're in a great situation to win, when you get your one-on-one matchups. That gives us an opportunity to make plays."
Nelson is third in the NFL with 998 yards on 60 receptions. He averages 99.8 yards per game for the Packers. There's no reason to stop going to him early and often when no one can cover him and stop the Rodgers-Nelson hookup.
"It gives us points. He gets in the end zone and he's a great threat," said receiver Davante Adams. "And I see people like to double him a lot and that opens things up for Randall and I so we get to move around a little more freely (with) man-on-man coverage. Just getting him the ball, if he doesn't score, one of us will."